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First time LL manager, 9-10 yr olds. HELP would be appreciated.

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by bsj, Mar 9, 2015.

  1. bsj

    bsj Renegade Crazed Genius SoSH Member

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    16,335
    My son's league needed a 6th manager due to a big boost in enrollment (a good thing....they have changed management and the new regime GETS it)....
     
    Yesterday at a baseball clinic, they asked me if I would take the team. Last year I assistant coached both of my sons teams, but I have never been the head guy. I'm just wrapping up my inaugural season as a 5th grade basketball head coach, so I am fine with the leadership role, but have never done it for baseball. 
     
    I'm feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed when it comes to getting these kids ready. I feel like basketball is SOOOOO much easier in comparison.
     
    What are the most important drills I should be doing at each and every practice? What are the other most important things I need to keep in mind?
     
    Here are my own personal bullet points for the first couple practices
     
    - Identify at least 3 kids who can pitch 
    - Identify at least 2 kids who can catch
    - Run the typical ground ball drills, fly ball drills....determine infield vs. outfield positions (although very important for me that kids rotate)...
    - Hitting drills....get them learning how to be patient
    - Baserunning with a focus on sliding at home (failure to slide on a close play is, I believe, an auto out this year)
     
    What else would you guys suggest I really hit early on in practices, and what should I add as we go?
     
    As an aside, I may very well be doing practices on a basketball court....at least some drills....until the thaw and dry. 
     
  2. Fred not Lynn

    Fred not Lynn Dick Button Jr. SoSH Member

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    4,656
    Make sure they all learn to throw properly and swing the bat properly. They have to be competent with the mechanics of those skills to be able to do anything else. Make sure everyone learns how to pitch. With pitch counts, you need a lot of arms - plus, you just should anyway at that age.
     
    They should be at an age where they can actually play catch with each other - so make sure they're good at it. I think it was Cal Ripken who said when he goes to a youth game, he watches the teams warm up, and the team that's better at playing catch before the game is pretty much always the team that wins the game.
     
  3. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I would recommend that you find at least 2 assistants that can help and then set up 3 stations.  There is nothing worse than one kid taking bp and the other 10 kids standing around. 
    I start practice with throwing drills.  As FnL said above the kids need to learn how to play catch.  If the balls get by you need to bring them back to the line before you throw it back.
    I then moved to partner fielding drills.
    Third was fielding stations. Infield, outfield, and cutoffs.
    Fourth was hitting stations. BP, tee/soft toss (where you can work on mechanics), pitching(again agreeing with FnL, all kids need to learn to pitch).
    Wrap up the end with a game of some sort.
     
    Good luck, have fun, and keep the kids moving. Never spend more than 5-8 minutes at any station or more than a minute or two on any drill.
     
  4. Cumberland Blues

    Cumberland Blues Dope Dope

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    4,652
    You'll need at least 2 assistants you can rely on - and if you can get a couple others to be semi-regular help that's good too.
     
    You'll need way more than 3 pitchers & 2 catchers.  You'll be amazed how quickly kids hit pitch count limits, and catching wears young kids down pretty quick - 40 pitch innings with a dozen trips to the backstop are exhausting.  I try to avoid any kid catching more than two innings a game unless I get lucky and a pitcher gets locked in reeling off 12 pitch innings. 
     
    Early practices on skills drills...then focus more on infield/cutoffs/baserunning the last 2-3 practices before games start.
     
    Rotate kids as much as you can - make the best players play some OF (they can't all play SS when all-star season rolls around) and letting the weaker fielders have an inning here and there in the IF keeps them engaged.  Obviously you can't put the kid who just can't catch at all at 1B or behind the plate - but you can hide him at 2nd base for an inning every now and again...and if he happens to knock one down he might even convert the short throw for an out and he'll feel like a million bucks.
     
  5. leftfieldlegacy

    leftfieldlegacy Member SoSH Member

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    Find out if any of the dads played baseball in high school or college and ask if they would pitch batting practice. Having someone who can consistently throw strikes at a an appropriate speed and can also correct poor swing mechanics as they occur is a very valuable asset. 
     
  6. soup17

    soup17 Member SoSH Member

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    101
    The more stations you can set up, generally the better.  If you can vary the drills and use more competition-type drills, that will keep them interested.  The bottom line is, particularly at this age, they need CORRECTLY EXECUTED reps.  If they can't execute the swing correctly, for example, the more that awful swing gets reinforced, the harder it is to correct later.  Some players can't get the stride right and it throws them off. Drill those players to not stride (striding is a timing mechanism, not a power producer as some think).  Some pitchers can't work from the windup - those pitchers should start from the stretch, and just step and throw like they are playing catch.  Break it down to make it more simple as much as you can.   The only play I really taught kids at this age was the force out at 2B - practiced that a number of times in conjunction with ground ball drills - easier out than the throw to 1B.  Let EVERYBODY pitch at least one inning - there are generally 4 or 5 run maximums per inning, so though it may be painful, you may find a diamond in the rough.  And if they don't get the opportunity to pitch at this age, they may never have the opportunity as the leagues get more competitive.  I also recommend letting everybody who wants to catch, catch; at least one inning for the same reasons. I'm also a big believer in rotating everybody around the positions and through the batting order roughly equally and keeping track on a spreadsheet to make sure it is fair. 
     
    This link has a number of drills: thedrillbook.com.  I also got the go coach app ($0.99), which is really helpful for beginning coaches.  Please feel free to PM or post other questions if I can be of any further help.  Have fun! Bill
     
  7. Skiponzo

    Skiponzo Member SoSH Member

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    1,043
    I've learned to really focus on good throws, solid athletic catching position and having aggressive at bats.
     
    Kids at this age are at all different skill levels so breaking them into groups works well. Having one coach work with the more advanced kids on situational stuff lets them advance their knowledge which will pay off not only for them in games but will also filter through to the other kids as they talk on the field and in the dugout. This leaves the other coaches to make sure all kids are using proper throwing and fielding techniques. I keep telling my kids I rather have them take extra time to accurately throw and have the runner safe at first than rush it and have him safe on third. 
     
    As for fielding, it KILLS me when they aren't in an athletic position when the ball gets hit. Legs spread, on balls of their feet, hands out front, glove ready and eyes on the batter. I'll remove kids from the infield if they don't do this. I also want them thinking ahead of time about where they are going with the ball if it's hit to them so I have the advanced kids calling out the available plays. This makes it more fun for those kids that get it AND it keeps me from having to yell it out. they listen to their peers better than their coaches.
     
    As for at bats I don't want them swinging at balls way outside the zone but I also don't want them looking for walks. They don't learn anything with the bat on their shoulder. If it's close commit and swing hard.
     
     
    Above all have fun! Little League is AWESOME!
     
  8. Cumberland Blues

    Cumberland Blues Dope Dope

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    This is an awesome point that I emphasized about a zillion times last season.  A good throw a step late >>>> a bad throw a step early.
     
  9. bsj

    bsj Renegade Crazed Genius SoSH Member

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    16,335
    Well we had our draft. Interesting. Ended up with a decent team. I have a couple of legitimate pitchers, a couple kids who can catch.
     
  10. Doug Beerabelli

    Doug Beerabelli Killer Threads Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    8,952
    As stated, get as many coaches as possible to help out.   3-4 kids per drill is a ton more reps, and keeps them occupied and interested.
     
    I like the idea of having pitchers throw from the stretch full time at this age.  It helps ensure they will have shoulder square to the plate at the beginning of the motion, rather than having to rely on the kid consistently starting from the same position as part of the windup.  Windup is fine if kids can do it.
     
    Pitch BP on the high end of the velocity spectrum once the season is rolling along.   Will make slower stuff they see in games easier to hit.
     
    If you can, have a coach "warm up" batter before BP with tee work or toss and hit work into net.   I wear out one of those portable nets per year (I like the square ones over the oval Jugs ones).   Also, the tee is the place for kids to learn swing fundamentals.
     
    Keeps the drills as much fun as possible - perhaps look up ones where you can incorporate mini competitions between groups.
     
    You can keep the parents happy by letting everyone pitch at some point, and perhaps even catch a little bit if interested.   Not sure how important winning is over player development, but there are always opportunities to give a lesser talented kid a chance at those positions.   As long as it's not a safety risk.   Another thing you could do in that regard is rotate guys up one slot in batting order each game (leadoff goes to bottom).  This ensures equal ABs, although it will make it more difficult to win.   Playoffs you can go with your best order.  Along that line, if rules allow, bat all the kids even if rules let you not have to do that.
     
    Develop as many Ps as possible.   Let them throw at practice a few times, don't give up on them early.  This all depends upon how much practice time you have, of course.
     
    Start season with email or meeting or both with parents to let them know how you are running things, how you will make PT decisions and postions decisions, and a protocol for how you want them to communicate with you.  And stick with what you wrote througout the season (or clarify any changes throughout the season).
     
    One main goal for you should be to have the kids love baseball at the end of the season - let that seep into all your decision making.
     
    Good luck and have fun! 
     
  11. BigMike

    BigMike Dope Dope

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    I had to call out this point for a response.   You might have a few who need to work on pitch selection, because they swing at everything.  Really frustrating is the kid who is an exceptional hitter,  but gets himself out because he swings and hits weakly garbage pitchers.
     
    But for the most part, you should be teaching kids to be aggressive at the plate.
     
    Walks are inevitable at the little league level, because the pitching gets poor,  but while "a walk's as good as a hit"   may be a mantra in some circles.  It really isn't when you are trying to develop young players
     
  12. twothousandone

    twothousandone Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Agreed. And a kid who shows s/he's willing to swing at something close, is MUCH more likely to get the benefit of the doubt from the umpire on later pitches. 
     
    At that level, it isn't even so much as if the pitch is "close." It's sort of "who gets penalized for this silliness?" The pitcher, who keeps chucking it up there, and the umpire can see his face, and knows he's trying really hard and concentrating, but the pitch ends up 2-3 baseballs to the outside of the plate? Or the batter, who doesn't even take the bat off his shoulder when the pitch, at the half-way point, looks like it might be a strike?
     
    Working the count is penalized. And, IMO, it pretty much should be, because all kids should be taught "You may get only ONE pitch that you can hit. When it comes, hit it. Don't watch it."
     
  13. Heinie Wagner

    Heinie Wagner Member SoSH Member

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    I agree. I think we'd all like to smack those LL managers who make every 9-10 year old take a strike (or two).  
     
  14. JimBoSox9

    JimBoSox9 will you be my friend? SoSH Member

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    And then there's always that one fucking ump in the rotation who thinks he needs to mark the black like he's Tim McClellan. Hope ya'll didn't have dinner plans, folks.

    There's no right answer, because it's obviously somewhere in the middle. it's shit as advice goes, but you've just got to pick your preferred snappy version of 'Patient Agression' and tailor it to each kid's particular boggle.

    For me, it's a mindset at the plate. whether a hacker or statue, most kids operate under the assumption that they're supposed to see the pitch, then decide to swing. They don't have the muscle memory to move their lower bodies right while their brain is still trying to decide. Once you manage to convince them they're supposed to see the pitch and then decide to NOT swing, decision-making tends to improve. Under 11-12, I'm an absolute nazi when it comes to landing with their weight back on every single pitch. I don't care if the guy threw it into the dugout, you better get to your fucking trigger.
     
  15. Al Zarilla

    Al Zarilla Member SoSH Member

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    I'll second this one. When my youngest was 12, I lost the ability to throw strikes and had to have the kids throw BP (probably wasting "game bullets") until I found a parent that could get it over consistently, or bribe my oldest, who pitched, to come out. Second or third order thing, If you can also manage to find a lefty to throw BP, that may be a really good thing. One year there was only one lefty pitcher in the league, or only one that could get it over, and the kids were all freaked out by the guy, even the right handed hitters. That was really surprising. He beat us easily.
     
    Infield drills, telling them a situation (man on first, or first and second, etc.) before you hit a grounder, getting them used to getting force outs at bases other than first. I know, with 9s and 10s, you'll be happy to get just the out at first most of the time. While you're doing infield, setting up rundowns, or pickles as they are called more in LL, is instructive and fun. When you can't think of anything more to do, you can always do more infield, and/or outfield. Speaking of outfield, a fungo bat, which I never had, is probably good to have. With a regular bat, you hit too many line drives or grounders. With 9 and 10 YOs though, you won't be hitting too many long, high flies. Maybe forget the fungo bat.
     
    Some kids are flat out afraid of the ball when hitting. Try putting a couple of bats on the ground behind them in BP so if they bail out/step in the bucket they get immediate feedback that they're doing something wrong. 
     
    Keep it positive. One guy who was managing in the town while I was, call him Charlie, really knew the game and generally won. However, the parent of a kid I had on the team a year after Charlie did, told me the kids didn't like him. What the parent said exactly was if his kid got two nice hits and then struck out the third AB, he harped on the strikeout instead of the hits. 
     
  16. Cumberland Blues

    Cumberland Blues Dope Dope

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    I tell my kids to look for their pitch for strike one - it's okay to let a close one on the edge go for strike one.  After that, they need to be swinging on anything close.  Most umps in our area call anything between the batters boxes a strike - so they'd better be hacking.
     
  17. BigJimEd

    BigJimEd Member SoSH Member

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    2,351
    At that age, my town has older kids umping. It's a good program in that it gets kids more involved in the game and gives them a different perspective.

    However, it can be frustrating for the players sometimes. You never know where the strike zone might be. That's from pitch to pitch on some of them.

    Batters need to be aggressive on anything close because the next called strike might be in the dirt a couple feet outside.

    Still you often see kids not ready to swing. Feet planted, bat perfectly still. Not to get into the debate about deciding to swing our not to swing, they need to start their process and be ready to swing at every pitch.

    Having someone who can consistently throw strikes in bp is great. Ideally on the more advanced hitters they can then throw a few obvious balls.

    With such different levels at this ages, It's important to be able to adjust drills to the appropriate skill level.

    Run downs, pickle, are a fun drill that kids enjoy. Good way to wrap up practice.

    You can use a tennis ball and racquet for fly balls. It's not the same as a ball of the bat but you can still get kids to get under the ball in the property position. Kids seem to enjoy that a well.

    As was said, try to make most drills a competition or a point system. The throwing one is great for warm-up. Gets kids to focus a little more.
     
  18. JimBoSox9

    JimBoSox9 will you be my friend? SoSH Member

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    Side note: this has probably been covered before but most parents/kids/coaches do pickle wrong.  You need to have 3 glove guys running relays by following their throws and switching bases.  So help me god if you let more than one runner go at a time......
     
  19. Heinie Wagner

    Heinie Wagner Member SoSH Member

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    BigJimEd - our town is exactly the same way with the youth umps - great idea in theory, some of the kid umps get a lot out of it, some of them are just barely paying attention, especially in the 9-10-11 (AAA in our town) age range. The kids who do the 11-12 year old (majors in our town) are a little older and better, but still kids. 
     
    It's a struggle to teach kids not to swing at balls in the dirt when pitches in the dirt sometimes get called strikes, but I don't think it's possible to get enough adult umpires for all the games in our LL.
     
  20. twothousandone

    twothousandone Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Unfortunately, they also have to be ready to bail out on every pitch, because control at this level leaves something to be desired.
     
    But, a tennis ball in practice can help them get used to staying in there. It doesn't hurt that much if they get hit, AND they learn how much time it takes to get out of the way (not as much as they think) and they can learn where the inside corner (or one baseball inside the inside corner) really is.
     
  21. robssecondjob

    robssecondjob Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    My teams at that age loved trying to hit the ball bucket (set up at second base) from the three outfield positions. They never even realized they were actually practicing useful skills.
     
  22. DeJesus Built My Hotrod

    DeJesus Built My Hotrod Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I am going to add my .02 about coaching hitting because I feel I have seen enough at the youth level that is so, so wrong that I need to say something.  
     
    First, I get the stance some here have regarding teaching kids to be aggressive.  As we all know, kid pitch at every level on the smaller fields generally has bad umpiring and even worse pitching.  As such, kids should have a zone where they hit.  That said, Little League and travel baseball perpetrates many crimes against young humanity including umps who call high strikes, kids who swing at said high strikes and coaches who think that being "aggressive" means its ok to swing at high strikes.  And also drop five bats but that isn't for this thread.
     
    Anyhow, I know a hitting instructor who has kids do two basic things at this level and above.  First, they need to understand their zone or their "x" where they are looking for a pitch.  Then they need work on recognizing the pitch out of the pitcher hand.  If they see the pitch coming for their zone, they get ready to swing.  If not, they take the pitch and by take it, I mean sit there still.  At this level, you may well get an ump who feels a kid taking this approach is just looking to walk but I prefer to take that risk versus teaching a kid to swing at everything.  If the goal is to develop the kid not just for this season but down the road, teaching the kid to have discipline but still be aggressive with balls in their zone should be the priority.  I know coaches who actually tell kids they hate walks and that is just plain wrong.  Taking a called third strike is really the thing you want to teach kids not to do - not deter them from abstaining from chasing shitty pitching.
     
    I will leave swing mechanics for others because its a really complicated topic for experts imho and as far as I am concerned, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Aside from getting a kid to keep his head still (Mike to Ike or Coco Crisp chin on shoulder) I am in the do-no-harm camp. 
     
    In conclusion, have a zone, look for your pitch but don't swing if you don't get it unless you have to protect.  And often umps are going to have strike zones that defy geometry at this level (and all the way up to the bigs) - this will provide coaches with teachable moments.  Maybe too many but they will be teachable regardless.  Oh and those free-swingers may look great, especially with 200-220 foot fences but most of these guys aren't Pablo Sandoval or Vlad Guerrero and their windmilling catches up to them eventually.  Those occasional bombs become routine cans of corn and, more often than not, easy swinging outs when they run into savvy pitchers/catchers/coaches who can take advantage.
     
  23. twothousandone

    twothousandone Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I think we agree, but I question this advice:
     
     
     I know it's not yours, and maybe something got lost, but the kid certainly has to load. And saying to stay still may preclude them from loading on every pitch. From there, I'd even say they should stride, or at least lift their leg. At some point, the pitchers will get faster, and striding before you know if the pitch is a ball or a strike may be needed. Finally, I'd have them watch the ball all the way into the catchers mitt -- back in the day it was unclear if Boggs or Mattingly was more aggressive and leaning over the plate and watching the outside pitch get to the catcher. 
     
    I'd argue that approach won't/shouldn't change much as they get older, and it just may be enough that an insecure ump realizes "this kids knows what s/he's doing. S/he's not afraid to swing, but just wants to swing at a strike."
     
  24. DeJesus Built My Hotrod

    DeJesus Built My Hotrod Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    To clarify, he has his students load but they do not stride. The idea is that he is really getting them to focus on swinging in the zone where a pitch is most likely to be called a strike and where the hitter is most comfortable. I am a fan of this approach because the results have been there for the players who receive this instruction. That said, there are many other aspects of this coaches' approach and as I said earlier, hitting is so complicated that there are many other drivers of success.

    My main concern for development is that many coaches dont differentiate between selective aggression and free swinging. As the latter group moves up, they are easier outs. I don't see how that helps anyone but their opponents.
     
  25. doc

    doc Member SoSH Member

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  26. Cumberland Blues

    Cumberland Blues Dope Dope

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    4,652
    Yeah doc, those pitching machines are great - we use those for our 7-8yr old league.  We go exclusively machine pitch the first half of the season, then as we introduce kid-pitch, we have no walks and use the machine to finish any at-bat where the pitcher throws 4 balls.
     
  27. Fred not Lynn

    Fred not Lynn Dick Button Jr. SoSH Member

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    When my son was in 9 year old coach pitch, we had a dad in the league who lost both legs to flesh-eating disease. His souped up athletic wheelchair put him at the perfect height to throw overhand to the kids.
     

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